Don’t know as context – the rest are questions about the world

I wrote an article yesterday where I pointed out that we don’t know what will happen after death, and that the most peaceful – for me – is the rest in and as that not-knowing.

Today, I wrote another article about how I sometimes check in with people who have recently died to sense what’s going on with them.

How can both be true? Don’t they contradict each other?

Not really. They can easily co-exist. In a sense, they complement each other.

The not-knowing is the context. And the checking-in is pragmatic and part of daily life activities, and hopefully held lightly.

It’s the same for my general view on what may happen after death.

Not-knowing is the context and what’s most true.

And everything else – my apparent memory of the time before incarnation, checking in with those who have recently died, NDE reports, research, and so on – informs my view about what MAY be happening. I have experiences, interpretations of those experiences, and ideas about what’s going on, and I aim to hold it all lightly.

They are questions about the world, not answers.

Not-knowing and questions about the world live together. They come from the same place.

Image by me and Midjourney

Questions and their assumptions

Any question rests on assumptions.

So one resolution to the question is to (a) identify these assumptions, and then (b) examine them.

There are of course many other types of answers too, each one potentially helpful in its own way.

One question may be why did I lose my awakening?

Assumption: It’s lost. Question: Is it true it’s lost? Is it true it’s not here now? Can you find it in immediacy? (Even if it’s perhaps less strong, more in the background?)

Assumption: It belonged to me. Question: Is it true it is yours? Is it true it was yours in the first place? Is it true it belongs to a person?

And there are other types of answers. For instance….

It’s a very common experience. It’s here, then apparently gone.

Also, it may appear gone for a couple of different reasons.

(i) It’s here, but doesn’t look the way you expect. You associate it with how it appeared initially…. perhaps in the foreground, extremely clear. It may still be here, only more quietly and in the background.

(ii) As soon as identification (beliefs, velcro) returns, the clarity may appear to be gone. This is not a bad thing or wrong. It shows you what’s left. It is an invitation to meet these identifications with presence, love, and curiosity.

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This is it


A sentence from any source can be used as a koan, a question for own exploration.

It is most interesting when the statement appears mundane or counter intuitive, and even if it is a familiar reminder, it can be an invitation to look in a fresh way and perhaps a little further.

This is it.

This is all there is. All my images of the world and myself is my own world of images.

All I see “out there” – in present, past, and future, is here now. All goals, dreams, qualities, dynamics, whatever it is, is here now.

It is an image here now. The feelings and atmosphere it evokes are here now. The qualities and dynamics I see out there is here now.

Even the images of present, past, and future themselves happen in my own world of images.

I can notice and get familiar with this in the usual ways. I can inquire into my beliefs. I can explore my sense fields. I can recognize my images as images as they happen. I can notice my emotions as here now, and not belonging to anything out there in the past, future, or present. I can recognize my goals as stories here now. I can find the qualities and dynamics I see in others here now, in myself, including in how I relate to that person. I can ask myself if what I seek is not already here.

In this way, I get double benefit from my world of images. I can use my images, goals, and so on as guides for choices and actions in the world. And I can recognize it all already happening here now.

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God hath given you one face

God hath given you one face and you make yourselves another.
– Hamlet 3.1, Shakespeare

This is an example of how great koans can be found in non-traditional sources.

And more importantly, it is a reminder of how any statement is a question and a pointer for inquiry.

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Cosmology as pointer

It is my second day at the intensive, and words from the main teacher reminded me of how cosmology can be a pointer.

Our actions in this life determines whether we will evolve into higher or lower beings following this life.

That is the familiar story of karma, and these types of more abstract teachings – apparently describing something out there somewhere – can be very helpful when taken as a pointer for something here and now, and less helpful when taken as a belief. (Although when it is taken as a belief, that is part of the process as well.)

When taken as true, it may at best encourage students to practice and to live in a more ethical way. But it is inevitably mixed with getting caught up in fears and hopes, and is just another log in the fire of taking stories as true. It is a scare tactic, and not quite honest since we cannot know. (Even if the most respected teacher or book tells us so, if we have vivid visions or memories, even if science indicates that it may be so, the truth is that we cannot really know.)

As any story, the story of karma is a question, an invitation to explore for ourselves, and to find what it points to here and now rather than take it as (only) “out there” in the wider world or the past or future.

Is it true that my current actions evolve me into a higher or lower being? How can I find it in my own experience?

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Asking helpful questions

The right questions can lead us to a great deal of insight.

For instance, if we assume the woman in this illusion is not actually cut in half….

Where must her real legs be?

If the legs sticking out at the other end are not her real legs, what may they be instead?

Why is her head moving at times when there is no apparent reason for it? Why is her neck in an awkward position while the sections are separated?

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Not if but how

Sometimes it seems banal and sometimes not, but good to keep in mind in either case…

Whenever I encounter a story, asking how it is true seems more helpful than if. Asking if is an attempt to measure a story against another, and none of them have more than limited validity in the first place. But when I ask how the story becomes a question and a pointer and starting point for inquiry. 

When I ask how, I can explore how it is true in a conventional and limited sense, how it can be a useful guideline in certain situations, and when it may be helpful and when it may be less helpful. I can also explore the truth of it as a projection, and in other ways. 

Asking how, there is more receptivity, an opportunity to explore, and – not least – it is more fun and interesting.

Everything you know is wrong


Helpful insights and pointers can come from any source. Some of my favorites are church signs, book titles and lyrics.

The book above is prominently displayed at one of our local grocery stores, and it is a great question and pointer. Is it true that everything I know is wrong? How is it true for me? What do I find? 

When I use statements from any source as questions in this way, what I find is often quite different from what is intended by the source. That only adds to the rich yield of those pointers. 

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What am I missing?

Whenever I have a story about something, I can ask myself what am I missing?

In a conventional sense, the stories I favor – and all the stories I am familiar with – miss just about 99.999%.

And any story is missing it 100% in the context of what I am.

Within the realm of stories, there are innumerable other stories that may be as or more helpful than the ones I am familiar with. They may be more helpful as guidelines for action, or pointers for exploration. They may fit my stories about the data better. They may be more comprehensive or nuanced. They may overall make more sense to me.

And within the context of what I am, stories are just stories. Mental field creations with only limited and practical function, as temporary guides for this human self to function in the world, and sometimes as an invitation for what we are to notice itself. They don’t begin to touch what is, even when they point to it.

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Reincarnation as projection, guide and question

A few things about reincarnation…

As any other story, it is a projection of what is here now.

A story is projected into the past, present or future. An idea of a past, future and even present life is projected and appears solid and substantial out there. Can I notice it as just an image, a mental field creation happening here now?

Qualities and dynamics are projected into the past, present and future. Maybe a life of blessings or of hardships, and details about each. Can I find it here now? See how it plays itself out? Feel it? Welcome it?

And among these is the dynamics of rebirth itself. In what way is rebirth happening here now? Can I notice that my stories are being reborn here now? My images of myself are continuously being recreated here now. Continuously maintained, fueled, enhanced, rehearsed, elaborated, in different ways.

(Whether those stories align with data and consensus reality or not, and appear to reflect something in the wider world, they are still also a projection of something here now. I couldn’t see it out there if it wasn’t also right here.)

And as any other story, it is a guide of temporary and practical value (or not). Helpful in some situations. Less helpful in other. When I use it for myself, what effects does it have? Does it help me take responsibility for my actions here now? If so, it may be quite helpful. Does it bring stress and tensions? If so, it may be less helpful.

And finally, as any other story, it is a question.

I may have images of past lives (for me, a life as a Russian intellectual in the 1850s and 60s, and a Taoist master in Xian in the 900s? during the Tang dynasty) but did those lives really happen? If they did, was something associated with those lives reborn in this one? If so, what is that something? And if something is reborn, is there an “I” in that something? If I can’t find an I here, anchored in this human life, would there be one then?

And it is also a question for us collectively. A question we can do studies and research on. And that research may well be worth doing, especially since its findings may help us open up our current science based world view.

So the story of reincarnation, as any other story, is a projection, a guide and a question.

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Always a beginner

I am always a beginner, whether I like it or not. Sometimes I notice, and there is receptivity. Other times, I don’t and am locked into identification with a story and identity.

Here and now is always fresh, new, different. Existence never repeats itself.

And there is always don’t know.

What I am familiar with is always finite within the infinite. I have limited experience. My insights are limited. The stories I am familiar with are limited. (There are always other stories out there that are more functional than the ones I am familiar with.)

Any story is a question, even if I take it as a statement. An innocent question to help my human self function in the world.

What I am – and anything is – cannot be touched by any story. A story can, at most, invite what I am to notice itself.

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Stories as questions

There is a beauty in taking stories as questions…

When I do so, it invites in a receptivity here that reminds me that any story can serve as a pointer and a guide, and that it happens within the context of don’t know.

It is a pointer for own exploration. What do I find when I explore for myself, with some sincerity?

It can have a temporary and practical value as a guide for action, in some situations. What happens when i take it as a guide for action in any particular situation? In what situation may this story be helpful as a guide? Is there another story that seems more helpful in this situation?

And I am also reminded that this happens within the context of don’t know.

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